What everyone agrees on is that power protection is about as unglamorous as it gets. Results and hardware are nearly always unseen, making it an easy decision to cut power-protection from the AV budget. You can’t project without a projector, but you can without power protection, at least for a while. “The single biggest mistake we see is facilities managers trusting that the power coming into their building will be rock solid,” says Mariasis. “And the second biggest mistake is failing to realize that having good power requires planning and budget.”
Mark Kaloudis, product line manager at Schneider Electric’s APC agrees. “People think ‘I don’t live in Florida so I don’t need to protect against lightning.’ But, a lot of surge is generated from within a building or from the utility provider.” And there are ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. “Protecting electronic equipment is for everyone.” Tops on his list of common mistakes: using power-protection devices meant for IT hardware with A/V equipment.
Neglecting the unseen is what worries Anthony Cuellar, vice president of Snader and Associates, a San Rafael, Calif. consultancy that serves the broadcast/film, production/post-production, audiovisual presentation, 3D animation, games/interactive, and federal government markets. “We consider power management an essential piece of the puzzle, but when organizations have to cut dollars, unfortunately it’s power management that often gets value-engineered out. People have the mistaken belief that their power is clean and spike-free, and it never is.”
This where power or line conditioners come in. We’re not talking about the power strips that we also use as extension cords, but robust protection equipment with a purpose. A power conditioner functions to smooth out these dips and surges in electricity so your equipment receives a steady flow. Many line conditioners also offer electromagnetic interference/radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI) filtering to prevent electronic noise from interfering with the AC power signal. According to Martin Domfeld SurgeX’s northern regional sales manager, “A power conditioner on the front end will address this noise to maximize the longevity of the equipment.”
Power conditioners plug into the wall and your equipment plugs into the device. They come in a variety of sizes, from rack mounts to cabinet-sized products, and are sold with an assorted number of outlets. This guide takes a look at rack-mounted power conditioners that support a nominal 15- or 20-amp load and that maintain an operating voltage of the U.S standard 120V.